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The Perfect Bite: Which fast food burger is the most healthy?

Hilary Hagerman
The Perfect Bite
April 8, 2013

Fast food restaurants aren’t exactly known for their healthy food options, but sometimes you just can’t get that craving for a burger out of your mind.

Today on The Perfect Bite, host Andrea Jenner chats with Megan Oglivie, health reporter for the Toronto Star and author of the book “Menu Confidential.” They taste test five burgers from well-known fast food chains, and Megan reveals which one is healthiest.

McDonald’s Quarter Pounder with Cheese

Right away, Andrea notices an artificial taste with this burger.

“The big thing with this one is that you can taste that it’s processed cheese,” she says. “That’s the first taste that I get off the top.”

“I get the crunch of maybe a lettuce or a pickle, but I don’t really get the flavour of it so much,” she adds.

“I’m not really excited about the second bite,” agrees Megan.

Harvey’s Great Canadian Burger with Cheese (Megan and Andrea’s favourite)

Megan and Andrea were both impressed by the authentic taste of this fast food choice.

“That is a juicy burger,” exclaims Andrea after taking a bite. “This is like a real burger.”

“With this one you can taste the meat, you can taste the bun, ketchup, mustard and a nice salty pickle,” adds Megan, who said the Great Canadian Burger was by far her favourite. “It tasted like a burger.”

““This would have been my choice too,” says Andrea. “It’s that messy, fall-apart-in-your-mouth but so tasty burger.”

Wendy’s ¼ Lb. Single

Both Andrea and Megan immediately notice that the overpowering taste with this burger isn’t meat – it’s mayonnaise.

“I think that’s the main flavour that comes out,” notes Megan, adding that it’s difficult to taste the actual hamburger.

“The bun seems like…it looks plastic, and I feel like it tastes a little bit plastic.”

Burger King Whopper (Least healthy)

The fluffy bun with this burger impressed the critics, but a slightly-dry patty kept this choice out of the running for best-tasting burger.

“I do love the taste of this one, but it seems like there’s a lot of mayo on it too,” Andrea notices.

However, Megan did enjoy the real tomato and lettuce on the Whopper. “It doesn’t seem as plastic as some of the others.”

Unfortunately, if you’re a Whopper fan, we’ve got some unsettling information for you.

“The least healthy among these burgers is the Burger King Whopper,” says Megan. “You might guess that because it’s the biggest hamburger.”

“This hamburger has 670 calories, and 40 grams of fat,” Megan explains. “That fat is equivalent to what you’d find in 10 pats of butter.”

A&W Mama Burger with Cheese (Most healthy, Megan’s and Andrea’s least favourite)

Both taste testers are turned off by the lack of taste with this burger.

“It doesn’t taste much like anything,” notices Megan. “I taste a lot of bread, more than I do anything else with this burger.”

Megan notes that while none of these burgers would classify as health foods, the Mama Burger does have the least amount of calories.

““This has about 450 calories and much less fat than some of the other choices,” Megan says. “But maybe that’s reflected in the taste.”

Regardless of which burger you go for, Megan says they’re all going to be a fairly large meal for the average person.

On average, we only need to eat about 2,000 calories a day, and with these burgers ranging from 450 to 670 calories, that’s between a quarter and a third of the calories you need.

And the salt is even worse.

“All of these hamburgers have about 1,000 milligrams of salt,” Megan explains. “Our bodies need about 1,500 mg of salt in a day, so two-thirds of that is coming in a hamburger.”

“Add in some fries, add in some breakfast sandwiches, and you’re going to be way over your sodium needs for the day.”

But, regardless of where you’re eating, you can always make healthy choices.

“All of these can be customizable,” Megan says. “Ask for them to up the tomato and lettuce and onion, there’s no calories there. And then cut back on some of the fattier options like cheese and mayonnaise.”

“It really comes down to making smart choices when you pick a burger, and how you top that burger. So for example, if you add a serving of mayonnaise to your burger, you’re adding 27 grams of fat, which is the equivalent of the fat found in an order of onion rings.”

Which fast food burger is your favourite? Let us know in the comments below.

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